Third Eye Martial Arts Studio

March 19th, 2017

Empowerment Through Self-Defence

It was “a lightning bolt moment” the first time Mehdi Saadati saw his uncle Master Ebrahim Saadati compete in Taekwondo. Mehdi was seven years old at the time and was instantly hooked; he knew he wanted to get involved in martial arts.

Third Eye Martial Arts Dunbar Master Erahim SaadatiMaster Saadati also began Taekwondo when he was seven. He earned his black belt when he was 12 years old. In 1989, he became a member of the Iranian National A Team and won first place at the International Fajr tournament. He continued to compete at national and international championships and in 1992 won a gold medal at the World Military Championships. In 1994 he won a silver medal at the Asian Games. In 1998 he became the Canadian champion in the welterweight division in Saint John, New Brunswick.

Taekwondo is the second most popular sport in the world (soccer is number one). Taekwondo is well loved because it teaches discipline while building self-confidence and both physical and mental strength. Mehdi points out how empowered students feel when they learn self-defence skills.

Mehdi moved with his family from Tehran to Vancouver in 1993. Master Saadati immigrated two years later. He started teaching Taekwondo at Kerrisdale and Sunset Community Centres in 2000 after he retired from competing. In 2011 the pair joined forces to work together at Third Eye Martial Arts Studio.

Master Saadati is the owner and head master and Mehdi is the general manager and head instructor. He describes Dunbar as “the jewel of the city.” What stands out for him is the strong sense of community; he really enjoys running into students and their families on the street. Although he doesn’t live in Dunbar currently, he has his eye on a condominium that would lighten his commute to a matter of minutes.

The first Third Eye Martial Arts Studio opened at West 8th Avenue (near Hemlock Street) and the large 5,000 square foot space serves as company headquarters. The Dunbar studio opened in 2013.

IMG_6393The smaller Dunbar space is busy seven days a week with over 300 students registered. Youth classes can accommodate 20 students and are taught by three instructors. Adult classes take place weekday evenings and weekends. All classes are co-ed although the demographic is slanted slightly higher towards female students for both kids and adult classes.

“Taekwondo is beneficial for everybody. It is not age dependent. It is something everyone can try.” Mehdi Saadati

Students from ages 3 to 72 attend classes at the Dunbar location as they work their way up from white belt through the rainbow of colours (yellow, green, blue, red) to reach black belt status.

Third Eye Martial Arts Dunbar Mehdi SaadatiMehdi says it’s never too late to begin this sport. He shares the story of a 70-year-old student who earned her black belt; she began at age 66. With admiration in his voice and a big smile he says, “She is the most tenacious woman I have ever met.”

As general manager, Mehdi manages the studios and ensures classes run smoothly. He specializes in teaching kids with special needs and autism; private classes are offered for low functioning students.

“The magic that happens when you make a connection is the most gratifying thing in the world.” Mehdi Saadati

If your child is looking for a kicking good birthday party consider Third Eye’s West 8th location. This is a great chance to introduce a group of kids to martial arts and you don’t have to be a member. Mehdi says many Dunbar families take advantage of these fun parties.

Another popular service is Third Eye’s after school program (also held at the West 8th studio). Instead of leaving your child with a babysitter or staying home alone, he or she will be picked up from school in one of Third Eye’s van and transported to the studio for Taekwondo training, homework and snack time. Parents pick their kids up before dinner.

Bullying is a subject close to Mehdi’s heart. He experienced being bullied as a child and says it can happen to anyone. Master Saadati, Mehdi and the other instructors are committed to children’s safety and security. Third Eye hosts a bully prevention program twice annually for all ages.

When a child is bullied Mehdi says, “It can feel like a dead end road.”

Third Eye’s workshop can also help parents identify the signs that aren’t always apparent. There is a physical aspect to the program run by three to four instructors and Master Saadati. Follow Third Eye Martial Arts Studio on social media (Facebook and Instagram) or refer to their website for further details.

Third Eye Martial Arts 4256 Dunbar StIf Taekwondo sounds like the sport for you or your child, consider Third Eye Martial Arts Studio’s special winter offer. From now until mid-March receive a one-month trial class and a free uniform for $49.95. You never know, your child may become hooked just like Master Saadati and Mehdi!

Third Eye Martial Arts Studio
4256 Dunbar Street
Vancouver BC V6S 2E9
Telephone 604-428-4256
www.temartialarts.com

Crepe & Cafe

March 19th, 2017

Customers Come First for New Owner

Crepe Cafe Dunbar 3500 w41stDiljeet Taheem is the proud new owner of Crepe & Café located at the corner of West 41st Avenue and Collingwood Street. He took over the established business last June and is quickly winning over customers.

Originally from Delhi, Diljeet followed his brother to Vancouver in 1990. He holds a Masters degree in Economics in addition to a diploma in Microcomputer Business Applications. He worked at the Vancouver School Board for a number of years and currently owns a design, printing and sign making company called Jasonbel Creations Inc. in addition to operating Crepe & Café.

His passion for cooking began at an early age. Diljeet explains, “I liked to watch my mother preparing food.”

Crepe Cafe Dunbar Diljeet Parminder TaheemDiljeet had been looking to purchase a coffee shop for two years when he discovered Crepe & Café was for sale and felt it was a perfect fit. Diljeet wasn’t looking for a formal dining experience and knew a franchise would not suit him. He was determined to operate an independent business where he could apply his creativity and make the business his own.

Cleanliness is high on this owner’s list of priorities so he started by giving the restaurant a full makeover. All of the counters were replaced and the floor was refinished. Tiffany-style pendant lights hang over counter and a number of chandeliers are mounted throughout the dining area. A black industrial open ceiling is balanced with white walls and artwork. He also replaced all of the furniture. Diljeet smiles when he reports a little boy commented on the comfortable new chairs.

Not being French or having run a restaurant did not deter the new business owner. The former owners trained him. He says, “I learnt from them but I did not stop.” He mentions his chef friends also shared their knowledge. Diljeet took to the challenge in an academic fashion and threw himself into researching French cuisine. He makes frequent references to the importance of technique.

“Cooking techniques are the same around the world with minor variations.” Diljeet Taheem

When it comes to crepes, Diljeet drew from his experience with the dosa, a type of pancake commonly made in southern India, which share similarities.

Crepe Cafe Dunbar interiorHis wife Parminder works alongside him in the kitchen; she prepares the crepes while Diljeet brews coffee and bakes.

Diljeet hasn’t changed the menu but he has improved it. He has added an organic salad to the crepe plate without increasing the price. He says, “I want to make sure my customers receive quality and value.”

On the menu you will find savoury crepes known as galette made with buckwheat flour. A number of fillings are available including eggs with Black Forest ham and Swiss cheese, smoked salmon with organic spinach and Swiss cheese, and chicken with red onion, tomato and Swiss cheese.

Sweet crepes include lemon and sugar, Nutella and banana, sugar with butter and cinnamon, and an assortment of jam fillings. Gluten-free crepes are also offered. Grilled sandwiches and wraps are very popular with the lunchtime crowd, and the fresh baked goods (including almond cookies and croissants) are a perfect accompaniment to enjoy with a variety of organic coffees (latte, cappuccino, espresso, Americano), organic teas (Diljeet says he makes an excellent chai latte), and other hot comfort drinks (hot chocolate and steamed milk).

When Diljeet sets himself a goal he won’t stop until he masters it. For example, he wanted to improve the coffee sold at Crepe & Café. He says, “I used my research skills to learn everything there is to know about coffee.” From using quality beans to the art of grinding, pressing and percolation, he says, “I technically fixed the coffee brewing process and have passed this knowledge on to my staff. The quality has to be there for the price.”

Diljeet strives for a personal experience. He says, “I want it to be like a home.”

Honest opinions are of utmost importance to Diljeet; he makes a point of personally serving new customers and asking how they enjoyed their meal. “My goal is to have them respond with a wow,” Diljeet says. One of his proudest moments to date was when he asked for feedback from a French couple – they were so impressed with their experience they asked Diljeet if he has spent time in France (he hasn’t).

Treating his customers with respect and courtesy comes as second nature to Diljeet. He likes to pull back customer’s chairs and is always happy to assist senior customers by holding the door.

When asked what he is finding most satisfying about operating Crepe & Cafe, Diljeet replies without hesitating, “What I am learning and using in my business. Knowing the café is improving and that people like the changes is very satisfying to me.”

Crepé & Cafe
3500 W 41st Avenue
Vancouver BC V6N 3E6
Telephone 604-566-9787

Spring Gardening After a Hard Winter

March 19th, 2017

Pruning
Pruning small trees and shrubs in February, during the dormant period, is a safe time to make cuts. Avoid pruning shrubs that are about to flower, as you will lose the buds. Use your handsaw and secateurs to improve access, shape, or remove branches broken by snow loads. Cut back any of last year’s perennials that were left for winter interest such as coneflowers or ornamental grasses. Cut to within an inch of the crown of the plant.

Damage and Debris Removal
In winter or early spring remove fallen leaves, branches, breakage from snow, and dead portions of Chafer grub damaged lawns. Rake up debris from the lawn and garden beds and dispose of as much possible in the green bin. Note that homeowners can call 311 and request the largest green bin available or order a second bin. Piles of debris left on the lawn will kill the emerging spring grass beneath it and becomes a nesting site for slugs and insect pests.

Add Composted Mulch
With spring on its way, a layer of composted mulch installed on the planting bed will help to suppress weeds, retain moisture, and moderate soil temperature. If your soil is light brown or yellowish in colour, this is a telltale sign that you need to use bark mulch as a top-dressing to add vital nutrients to your garden.

2017 is the year of ‘Soundscaping.’ Plant trees or shrubs that have dense lower branches in order to buffer your garden space from urban noise. Leaves, trunks and branches serve to disperse sound waves. It’s no surprise that trees are once again in the spotlight for their health benefits.

Jessica Salvador is a Certified Landscape Horticulturist. She is Co-Owner of Higher Ground Gardens with Christian Kessner, a Certified Landscape Technician

Dunbar Little League

March 19th, 2017

Champion of Dunbar Village.

You can almost hear the aluminum bat ping, smell the burgers on the grill and feel the teams’ collective energy as David Berrington enthusiastically describes his involvement with Dunbar Little League (DLL).

David-Berrington-DLL-Dunbar-LifeDavid is president of DLL’s board and he’s a huge fan of the organization. This season DLL celebrates its sixtieth season, making it Vancouver’s second oldest Little League. Although the season is short, three months in total from April to June, in addition to tournament season (mid-June to the end of July), DLL is a true community anchor.

Volunteers are fully responsible for running DLL and there is no problem getting people out to lend a hand. David says, “This is not drop and go, this is drop and participate.”

“We have the strongest volunteer base of any league we interact with. We measure our success by our community spirit.” David Berrington

An example of community spirit is the pre-season field preparation workday; approximately 150 people turn out every year without fail. They come equipped with hoes, shovels and rakes to weed, put up fences, and spread “red gold” which is what David jokingly says they call the expensive dirt.

He mentions that season openers draw as many as 500 kids and 1,000 family members. He adds, “No other Dunbar events have a turn out like this.” Closing day also draws huge crowds. An annual parade kicks off the day, beginning at West King Edward Avenue and processes, complete with police escorts, along Dunbar Street to Memorial Park. With as many as 700 kids, coaches and parents joining in, by the time they reach the park the numbers double in size with the awaiting crowd.

Community celebrations are at the heart of DLL. Perhaps it is because, as David acknowledges, “Baseball has a rich tradition of history and ceremony” that they place value on commemorating special occasions. On Mother’s Day the concession stand is off limits – no mothers are allowed to volunteer. Instead, mothers and grandmothers are showered with adoration in the form of a cooked breakfast made by the dads.

Another notable occasion is the annual coaches game. This one night tournament is an opportunity for everyone to come out and watch the coaches play. A volunteer who happens to be a restaurateur, came up with the idea of offering a special menu of meatball sandwiches and crab rolls at the concession stand, which met with great approval. As many as 300 people have come out to cheer on the coaches; kids act as umpires and get an opportunity to make announcements. Pancake day for the Majors players is an opportunity to shine the spotlight on the senior players prior to the playoffs. They hold fun competitions and players receive a commemorative pin in appreciation of their time spent with DLL.

Players and their families are guaranteed to be neighbours due to set boundaries within the Dunbar area.

Only accepting registrations from Dunbar kids creates instant connections with one another at Memorial Park and Balaclava Park, which are the home parks to the 500 DLL players who range in age from 4 to 12.

Beginning at age 4 children can sign up for T-ball where they will get their first taste of being a Little Leaguer. At age 7 they progress to Minor B division (the only level that plays at Balaclava Park), at age 9 they advance to Minor A and finally at age 11 through 12 they reach Majors division at Memorial Park’s big diamond.

All teams are co-ed and it’s never too late to learn to play baseball. David notes that while registration has already taken place for the older divisions, T-ball registration is underway during the month of February.

“The concession turns a small profit every year. It’s not about making a profit, it’s about the community feeling.” David Berrington

The concession is open to everyone; residents will often stroll by and make a purchase. For $5 you can purchase a burger and drink. Popcorn, hot dogs, Caesar salad wraps and slushies are all very popular but the top seller by far is the candy bags priced at a mere 50 cents. Over the course of a season DLL sells over 6,000 bags. Groups of volunteers meet twice a season to bag the candy.

With 50 DLL teams in total there are plenty of opportunities for local businesses to get involved as sponsors. David mentions there is a waiting list to sponsor the Majors level. Businesses benefit from exposure to local residents but it is also a philanthropic investment in the neighbourhood that drives many to get involved.

How did David get involved? Although he did not play baseball as a child he made a point of introducing his two sons to a variety of sports. They became hooked and have worked their way up through DLL. His oldest son has now moved on to Bantam Triple A with Vancouver Community Baseball. His youngest son is completing his final year in DLL’s Majors division.

DLL logo sqDavid admits that as a human resources consultant his strength is managing and leading people. He has thoroughly enjoyed volunteering for DLL. With one final year as president he admits, “I’ll miss it terribly. The involvement I have is special.” He will remain for an additional year as past president, but will always be involved in some capacity. “I don’t own the league. I have been a caretaker for a few years. You always hope to leave an organization in a better place when you move on,” he says.

Regarding the sixtieth anniversary season DLL plans to host an alumni game and hold a party in June which all former coaches and players are invited to attend. Information and details will be forthcoming on DLL’s website at www.dunbarbaseball.ca

Puppies and Toddlers

March 19th, 2017

Puppies-Dunbar-LifeMany Dunbar families have dogs, which means most of those have had the Puppy Experience. Our now four month old puppy reminds me daily of how remarkably similar the experience of having a puppy is to the Toddler Experience. Sorry kids.

Both toddlers and puppies involve a general disruption of routine and constantly require surveillance and intervention. When puppy finally exhausts herself and konks out on the floor, we scurry about, having showers or putting things away while puppy sleeps. Try bringing in groceries or sweeping the floor or emptying the dishwasher with a puppy or a toddler ‘helping you.’ The ordinary can become a personal challenge: the other day I got crazy and decided to sneak the door mats back to their usual positions at the front and back doors. After 24 hours of their remaining in place I thought I had clinched a victory, until I entered the room to see our puppy whipping the mat in circles above her head like a cowboy swinging a lasso. The mats were collected once again.

Both puppies and toddlers regularly walk off with car keys and mail and shoes if not secured away. All possessions are at risk. A toddler in our family once hid a turned off pager inside a bread-maker, an extremely clever move given the frequency of that appliance’s use. Our counters and tables are strewn with a bizarre collection of random items retrieved from the puppy. Last month I was driving off almost late for a meeting when, with a sinking feeling, I noticed in my rear view mirror a Fed Ex truck pulling up to our house. Imagining perfectly the Christmas on-line shopping delivery scenario, I looped around and returned home again to find our puppy in the front hall, pleased to have her very own hand-delivered personal chew toy package in her mouth. Rescuing the home delivered “toy” and replacing it with an approved dog toy, pretty much identical to a baby toy, all ensured that I was definitely late for my meeting.

Toddlers and puppies both cause an inordinate amount of energy and conversation to be focussed on bodily functions. Those not involved in this world are surprisingly less enthusiastic about tales of successful potty use or, in the case of dogs, back yard visits. For proud participants in this endeavour, detailed reports provided at work or at dinner parties never quite bring about the thrilled response we are looking for.

Both puppies and toddlers provide constant reminders of the wonders of the world around us. We are amazed by a toddler crouched in that full-squat position young children rest in, staring intently at a beetle on the ground, tapping it gently with a tiny index finger. On a recent walk our puppy caught sight of someone vaping at a bus stop. She pulled over, sat directly in front of him and stared at the vision before her, glancing at me a few times to check whether this situation was alarming or not.

Nobody can deny that both are beyond adorable when asleep. How many times a parent finally has a toddler asleep on their chest, and, rather than carrying the child to bed, lingers there with the delicious weight and warmth of this small person upon them. Or having a puppy literally curled up upon one’s feet and not getting up, though needing to, for the sheer delight of the moment. We linger because the moment is beautiful and because we know all too well that the whirling dervish will soon return.

Dunbar Painting

March 19th, 2017

Comes Through With Flying Colours.Dunbar-Painting-interior

Stroll through Dunbar and on most blocks you will notice beautifully painted heritage homes. Dunbar Painting is responsible for having lovingly and professionally painted many of these character houses in one of Vancouver’s most coveted neighbourhoods.

Coby Cohodas, the charismatic owner of Dunbar Painting, grew up in Dunbar and he and his wife continue to live in the neighbourhood. Back in 2009, while working towards his B.A. degree at UBC he took a summer painting job, which unintentionally led him on his career path. Coby says, “I have an all or nothing mentality and proceeded to launch my own business while still attending school.”

Dunbar Painting is growing by leaps and bounds.

Coby-Cohodas-Dunbar-PaintingThe business started off with Coby and one other painter. Fast-forward to 2017 and this driven entrepreneur is projecting $1.8 million in revenue. During the busiest months he employs as many as thirty painters. This year Coby plans to expand his team from one to three production managers as Dunbar Painting’s client base continues to grow throughout the Lower Mainland.

Dunbar Painting specializes in both interior and exterior residential house painting along with deck refinishing. Older homes are the company’s specialty. The business is also equipped to handle minor carpentry repairs such as shingle replacement, new trim and replacing rotting wood, which is sometimes encountered when painting older homes.

Including “Dunbar” in the company name has proved beneficial due to the prestige associated with this community. Coby explains, “Although I service surrounding neighborhoods, the company’s name has helped garner local recognition, especially when people see the care we take in painting their homes.”

Over the years Coby says, “Business got to a place where I handled sales and production yet I couldn’t see growth.” That is, until he hired Vancouver based business coaches, Breakthrough Academy. He laughs when he explains they approached him through a cold call in 2014. Breakthrough Academy provides online coaching specifically for trades and has helped Coby systemize the business. By implementing new strategies Coby says, “Our customers’ experience has been greatly enhanced.” He notes since he began working with the coaches his business has doubled in revenue.

“Dunbar Painting is focused on core values. We care about what we do.” Coby Cohodas

From the first consultation with a homeowner until the job is complete, Dunbar Painting’s goal is to deliver an outstanding experience that will have clients proudly referring the company to their friends.

Coby explains, “With every paint job, our goal is to create lifetime customers, so we take every step required to ensure you are happy throughout the painting process.” “We only use high end products from Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore,” he adds.

Coby’s business ethics are as strong as his commitment to offering a top-notch job and his clients attest to Dunbar Painting coming through with flying colours.

Glowing testimonials abound on the company’s website.

Dunbar-Painting-managersHomeowner Rebecca Rauscher (whose home is pictured in the photos accompanying this story) shares her positive experience with this local business. She says, “Your team was respectful, kind and a joy to have around. I also love that they cleaned up after themselves. You can hardly tell that they were
here (besides the transformation of my home!) I have nothing but positive things to say about Dunbar Painting.”

While some people feel comfortable selecting paint colours others feel out of their element. Clients can hire a Benjamin Moore colour consultant, or Dunbar Painting recommends hiring consultant Debra Thompson who digitally paints a photograph of your house to show you a number of possible looks.

People who own heritage homes really care about their houses.” Coby Cohodas

If your home happens to fall under the heritage register you may be eligible to apply for Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s “True Colours” program. Homeowners can receive up to a $1,000 cash grant and complimentary paint from Benjamin Moore to restore the exterior colours to those of the original heritage building. Dunbar Painting is on the True Colours approved paint contractor list.

Spring is just around the bend. If you are looking to freshen up the interior or exterior of your house contact the experts at Dunbar Painting. Mention this Dunbar Life story and Coby will offer a 10% discount on interior painting valid until April 2017.

Dunbar Painting
3891 Dunbar Street
Vancouver, BC V6S 2E1
Telephone: 604-788-3382
www.dunbarpainting.com

New District

December 6th, 2016

new-district-wine-farrell-kearney-hampson-thorpe-dunbar-life-palla-mediaFrom Vineyard to Table

The south end of Dunbar has recently gained a bit of a Main Street feel with New District wine shop having moved into the neighbourhood.

New District opened in May 2016 and is a full service liquor store with a difference – 98% of the wines they sell are not available in government liquor stores. Their goal is to shine the spotlight on small and medium sized wineries that may otherwise not be carried in larger stores due to the volume they would need to produce.

If you have gone on an Okanagan wine tour and returned home hoping to find that gem you tasted and fell in love with, you may very well find it at New District, and if you don’t, they will try their best to special order it (by the case is best!). The shop also carries wines from around the world that you won’t commonly find elsewhere.

“Every wine has a story behind it, and we are great storytellers at New District.” Isaac Hampson-Thorpe

Here you will also find beer – both larger brand names and craft beer – and craft spirits. New District carries products from 20 different B.C. distilleries such as G&W Distilling, Long Table, Odd Society, Shelter Point and Victoria Spirits.

The interior of the store is beautiful and takes advantage of the shop’s high ceilings. Wine and spirits are displayed on tall custom shelves, industrial glass pendant lights hang from the ceiling, and rich coloured wood flooring conjures thoughts of wine barrels.

Tables are elegantly displayed with specials and themed selections to help make your search for the perfect bottle even easier, however you will never feel at a loss as New District is staffed with wine experts who are extremely knowledgeable and passionate about wine. All of the staff are certified wine educators, but also have other talents: one is a pastry chef, another is certified sommelier, two are bartenders, and a number are former wine store managers; they can help direct you to the perfect bottle.

new-district-wine-1-dunbar-life-palla-mediaStore manager Isaac Hampson-Thorpe got an early start in the business. Family ties in B.C.’s wine country (Naramata) allowed him to spend time in the region and once he started working in a winery he never turned back. He has worked on both the retail side and as an agent and is currently enrolled at Sonoma State University, perfecting his industry acumen in the Wine Business Management program.

Like all of New District’s staff, Hampson-Thorpe is passionate about wine. He says, “New District is big on educating people, and simplifying the enjoyment of wine.”

One of the company’s secret weapons is DJ Kearney, New District’s director of wine. Multi-talented, she is a certified sommelier, wine educator, wine writer, judge, presenter and classically trained chef.

Kearney comments, “We are a strong team at New District. Isaac and I collaborate on the wine buying and merchandising. Our sales team are vastly experienced and dedicated to providing supreme customer service and a great shopping experience.“

“We are much more than the physical store however, with an online e-commerce store so customers can opt to shop from home or work.” DJ Kearney

Their beautiful website offers curated wine selections, giving customers a mix of B.C.’s best, compiled by Kearney. New District does the legwork for you, to expertly hone in on the world of wine. A weekly email newsletter keeps customers informed of what’s new in store.

new-district-wine-2-dunbar-life-palla-mediaNot only can you order online, New District will also deliver to your home year round (including the holiday season – and that strikes one errand off your busy to-do list). Orders of $200 or more qualify for free delivery.

Having experienced a busy Thanksgiving, the New District staff is excited about the upcoming festive season. For the wine connoisseur on your gift-giving list, or to stock up for a busy month of entertaining and parties, New District’s advent calendar showcases 25 different wines and will be available in November.

The word is quickly spreading that New District is the new wine store in Dunbar. Hampson-Thorpe mentions, “Many locals are connecting with the store. Others are coming from across the city.”

The official grand opening is scheduled for Saturday, November 19 and promises to be a fun-filled event with wine tastings and an opportunity to meet the New District team. If you miss the opening you can always drop by for weekly beer tastings (Fridays) and wine tastings (Sundays), hosted by Assistant Manager Martin Farrell.

Hampson-Thorpe concludes, “Dunbar is a community that enjoys wine and spirits. It’s an exciting time for us. It’s a great neighbourhood and we are really happy to be here.”

New District
5650 Dunbar Street
Vancouver, BC V6N 1W7
604-229-3663
www.newdistrict.ca

Mexicali

December 6th, 2016

mexicali-burrito-dunbar-life-palla-mediaA Taste of Mexico on Dunbar

If you are craving Mexican food, Mexicali is the place to visit for a casual meal. Lee Quang’s customers fondly refer to him as Señor Lee, and he is Dunbar’s purveyor of Californian style Mexican food.

Mexicali has been located in Dunbar for 12 years. Prior to that it was situated on Arbutus Street for 12 years before being destroyed by a fire. Quang was determined to find another West Side location to keep his loyal customers happy and knew he had hit the jackpot when he found Mexicali’s current home.

mexicali-lee-quang-dunbar-life-palla-mediaQuang arrived in Canada from Vietnam in 1988. He learned the art of cooking Mexican food when he worked in the kitchen at Las Margaritas restaurant on West 4th Avenue. This style of cooking is far from his native Vietnamese cuisine but he learned on the job. He has words of praise for the original owners of Las Margaritas who not only trained him but also were extremely supportive when he ventured out on his own. He says, “They became like family and taught me a lot.”

The small restaurant’s décor spotlights Mexicali’s logo (a cartoon chili pepper donning a sombrero) painted on the back wall. In addition, a large mural wraps around the restaurant to create the atmosphere of being on a tropical beach at sunset with palm trees swaying in the warm breeze. Background music, Tejano style, plays over the sound system and gets toes tapping as you dine.

Mexicali is known for its large portions and very reasonable prices.

What is Quang’s secret? Customers order their meal at the counter, pay, and the food is delivered to the table. There are three kitchen staff, including Quang who must have a carbon copy of himself, because he is also out on the floor serving; it is almost as if he is a one-man show and he says this assists in keeping his costs down. Remarkably, he makes it look easy. He smiles and agrees but humbly adds that it is thanks to many of his regular customers who know the menu inside out, which simplifies his job.

He mentions that the community is very loyal, from families with young children to teenagers and adults; people are drawn to the tasty and filling meals. Like clockwork, after he mentions the support of students, a troop of St. George’s students files in to place their lunchtime order before heading back to class.

What do they keep coming back for? Diners are drawn to his quality ingredients and recipes, which are made as low fat as possible. While Mexican food can be spicy, Mexicali’s dishes are made to be on the mild side, although if you request spicy they are happy to turn up the heat!

A number of dietary requirements can be accommodated, from vegetarian to gluten free, nut free, low sodium and low fat. MSG is not found in any of the kitchen’s products and the cooks avoid preservatives to their greatest ability.

Freshness is the name of the game at Mexicali. Quang likes to shop locally and purchases much of his produce at Dunbar Produce. He points out the local merchants are his friends.

The menu includes quesadillas and other snacks (tacos, Redondo rollups) and appetizers (nachos, guacamole, chips and salsa, soups and salads). Entrees feature burritos, chile relleno, enchiladas, tamales, arroz con pollo (rice with chicken), chile con carne and vegetarian chili.

mexicali-4424-dunbar-life-palla-mediaMenu standouts are the lunchtime specials, which offer unbelievable value. Quang indicates the teenage crowd is drawn to these specials because they include Mexi fries and a beverage. A favourite is the beef Redondo rollup – a grilled tortilla filled with ground beef, spices, lettuce, cheese, salsa and sour cream. The other crowd-pleasing specials are the soft or crunchy (your choice) beef tacos and the enchilada with rice and a choice of refried or black beans.

Don’t forget to try the housemade salsa, Quang is extremely proud of it.

Mexicali is not a licensed restaurant therefore expect a virgin margarita made with pure fruits and juices. The “slighty slushy Mexican limonada” is another popular beverage.

This busy restaurant owner has a young family (two daughters), works seven days a week and rarely takes holidays, yet he keeps smiling. He loves what he does for a living and it shows.

mexicali-4424-dunbar-palla-mediaWhat is the most rewarding part of owning and operating his business? Quang is quick to point out it is his customers. He says, “They are very nice and supportive.” He mentions that his customers come from all over to dine at his establishment and while some have moved away from the area they return for a meal at Mexicali, which he appreciates.

Running a restaurant is not an easy job. The hours are long; the rising cost of food makes keeping menu prices affordable a challenge and competition can be fierce. Quang has obviously found the magic formula – he is still smiling and relaxed after 24 years of running his own business!

Bring in this Dunbar Life article between November 15 through January 15 (offer valid from 3:00 to 8:00 p.m.) and receive a 20% discount on dine in orders.

Mexicali
4424 Dunbar Street
Vancouver BC V6S 2G5
Telephone 604-731-6517
www.mexicali.ca

Gift Giving

December 5th, 2016

dunbar-life-gift-givingGift giving is a particular kind of art. The gift of “the gift” is a combination of thoughtful-ness, artsiness, sleuth, timing and delivery. The price of a gift does not ensure its meaning, however, if one must receive a meaningless gift, then expensive is nice.

I know people with this talent who are total pros. Gift shopping is a state of being for them, constantly on duty in search of perfect gifts. The women among them could be in labour, en route to the hospital and still zip into a shop to pick up the perfect house-warming gift for their co-worker’s renovated kitchen.

Not possessing this gift, I have been known to approach Christmas shopping like immunization: as painful but necessary. When our kids were little I would book a babysitter for the entire day and be standing outside some immense mall at door opening, in runners and light athletic gear, hydrated, well fed and wearing a backpack. I did not know if the gifts people wanted were in that mall: I just knew that the gifts they were getting from me were in there. Back and forth I’d go to the car all day, like some retail triathlon participant, “getting the job done.” There was not a lot of art or beauty involved. I do miss the easy shopping days of visiting a giant toy store where a lot of primary coloured plastic was purchased, though none emitting terrible sounds or requiring batteries.

Getting someone ‘the perfect gift’ is such a joy. That jumpy, magic moment while you await someone dear unwrapping a gift you know he or she is going to LOVE truly does make it better to give than receive. I hit that home run once, with my whole family and parents all at the same time, having created by some miraculous aligning of the universe, a photo memory book for a special period of time we all shared. The tears streaming down my daughter’s face as she looked through the book was my gift.

Occasionally the setting of the gift delivery becomes the part of the gift itself. Think of the smitten lover who sends a flower bouquet up the elevator to greet his waiting beloved. Or the gift held out at the back porch door of an elderly couple by an unexpected visitor who travelled from afar.

A favourite gift setting for me was our messy kitchen at home early one morning last April. The day prior had been a particularly bad day and also our 25th wedding anniversary. That day was not a Hollywood romance movie but rather a grainy black and white documentary: a normal work day, followed by kids sports, building a crescendo with an evening computer meltdown and loss of a group EMBA project, two teenagers needing to pack for two separate school / team outings and peaking with an all-night emergency visit to Vancouver General Hospital. Discovering the next day, a gold gift bag containing a wooden box with a gorgeous long strand of pearls in our disheveled kitchen, unnoticed amid the chaos of the day before, struck me as the perfectly poetic, fitting way to receive a gift celebrating 25 years of marriage. Pearls among the mess.

Such are gifts in our ordinary lives.

The Dos and Dont’s of Writing the Best University Admissions Essays

December 5th, 2016

By Bryan Ide, Education Directory KEY Admissions Strategy & Learning Enrichment

Before you submit your US university applications, ask yourself if you are truly happy with your essays. Do they capture the reader’s attention? Do they articulate your compelling and interesting story? And most importantly, do they make you stand out? To help you answer these questions, here are some important dos and don’ts to writing outstanding university admissions essays.

Do be genuine and passionate
The number one rule to writing a great personal statement is to be yourself. Think of the essay as a fun exercise where you get to write about what you are passionate and to show your real self. When you focus on something that is genuinely you, you’re much more likely to write a unique personal essay.

Don’t be opportunistic
Be careful if you write about the sick relative in the hospital or all the hardships you have faced in life in order to gain the sympathy of the reader. That doesn’t work. Also, if you talk about saving the environment you but your application doesn’t show that you even are involved with your school’s environmental club, you will look opportunistic. In other words, don’t write what you think will appeal to the reader. Rather, stay true to yourself.

Do connect with your reader quickly
As I’ve mentioned in one of my previous articles, one exercise that I do with my students I call the two-sentence rule where I read the first two sentences of their essays. If my students haven’t caught my attention, they need to rewrite their essays. Remember that admissions officers are going through your application so quickly that you need to be able to catch their attention as soon as possible. Also, the more effective essays use humour, wit, and self-deprecation to connect with the reader.

Don’t be clichéd
I noted in a previous article that one of the common themes I saw as an interviewer for Cornell University went something like this: the applicant moved to Canada from China a few years ago not knowing any English and not having any friends. Through perseverance and determination he overcame the language barrier and fully integrated himself into Canadian society. If your essays sound very similar, then I can guarantee you that many other applicants will have written the exact same essay. So, it’s important not to be clichéd and write something that many others will also have written.

Do show how you think differently
One effective way to stand out among the crowd is to show how you think differently. Take for example my own essay that I wrote when I applied to Cornell University. My topic was McDonald’s, yes McDonald’s fast food restaurant! For one week I went to McDonald’s every day and sat there watching people. I noticed certain things and particular patterns. For example, the average time it took for someone to enter, eat, and leave was about seven minutes. Also, do you know why the seats at McDonald’s are so hard and uncomfortable? It’s so that McDonald’s can cycle more customers through at a faster rate thereby increasing profits. Writing about my observations at McDonald’s showed how I think differently about something which most people wouldn’t even think or notice.

Don’t write fiction
A couple of years ago, I reviewed the essays from a couple of students from one of Vancouver’s top private schools. To my shock, the students had written fictional stories! I guess they thought that writing fiction was their way of being creative. However, admissions officers aren’t interested in reading about things that never happened. Rather, they want to get to know the real you, so how are they supposed to do that by reading a fictional story?

As you strive to write the best essay you can, remember these helpful hints. And always stay true to yourself. You’ll find that it’ll make writing your essay so much easier and so much more pleasant.